Hong Kong Homies is where we get deep real fast with Hongkongers.
Chan Chu Chiu, 33, butcher
I’ve been through a lot. Name it, and I’ve probably done it. Joining a triad group, gambling, fighting, going to nightclubs. The worst thing that I’ve done, is probably getting myself into a lot of debt. I am about $300,000 in debt right now.
Believe it or not, I was actually top of my class during my early secondary school years. Then I met a bunch of bad friends. I was bored and had nothing else to do, so I joined them and became a “street child” (街童). We started fights, we used knives. I once had 7 catties of cannabis at my home. Looking back, I think I did those things because of the herd mentality. It was stupid, but it changed the course of my life.
The first time I was arrested, it was because of theft. I was detained for 16 hours. I slept through most of it. I was sentenced to a 12-month probation. I really decided to change after my second arrest. I was charged on what we call “Wounding 17″ (傷人17), a serious offence when you seriously hurt someone, and you’re liable to life imprisonment.
When I got out of jail, I decided to break off my relationships with those bad friends. I found a proper job. But at first, it didn’t really work. I spent most of my salary on nightclubs and gambling and became heavily in debt. That is truly when I did a 180 on my lifestyle. Now, I usually go home directly after work. First thing I do after I’m paid? I hand money to my family.
Three of my most memorable romances started at local nightclubs. The first one is still my favorite so far. She was very popular. I spent most of my money on gifts for her. Necklaces, rings, flower bouquets. Anything you can think of, I have bought it for her.
She chose to marry a rich guy in the end. I was so heartbroken that I married someone I hardly knew within the month. She was from the mainland, and perhaps because she was shocked by what Hong Kong was like, she divorced me four days after we married.
The second [memorable romance] is one of the first women I got to know at nightclubs. We had been through a lot of good times and bad times. She stuck with me even when I was poor. We once spent a night together, when we owned fewer than $100 together. We walked from Mong Kok to Jordan, chatting and talking about life. She’s still my best friend.
The third romance is my current girlfriend. We became boyfriend and girlfriend the second day I met her. She is amazing to me. She knows that I’m in debt and she often offers to pay when we go out. We’ve been together for three years now. She is quite popular at the nightclubs and some “big brothers” are her regular clients. I don’t have plans to get married yet, not until I can afford to pay at least half of the wedding expenses.
The worst thing about the job? You feel trapped. You get paid by the day. Skip a day at work? No money. You work from 6am to 6pm. Sometimes I can leave earlier at 4pm, by skipping the one-hour break in between.
My family was in the butcher business. When I was young, I felt that people discriminated against butchers: zhu yook lo (豬肉佬, “ Pork Uncle”). Now, there is more respect. Probably because people know butchers are paid pretty well.
The first thing I do in the morning is cut a whole big pig into six pieces with my colleagues. We divide up the work and then cut the large pieces into smaller, sellable pieces. It takes about one hour.
You get used to the work, the blood, the meat pieces. It’s off-putting at first, but have you been to a restaurant kitchen? Those are actually far dirtier.